A Brave New (Virtual) World

readyplayeroneVideo games have come a long way since the very first console, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released in 1972. Augmented and virtual realities are now on the rise as gamers find more ways to distract themselves from their actual reality. But what happens when the line between real and virtual begins to blur? How will virtual realities shape our future? Explore these concepts by picking up one of these fascinating novels about video games and the people who play them:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Immersing himself in a mid-twenty-first-century technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty, and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world’s creator.

Lock In by John Scalzi – When a new virus causes one percent of the population to become completely paralyzed in body but not in mind, the United States pursues a scientific initiative to develop a virtual-reality world for victims, with unexpected consequences.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson – When his own high-tech startup turns into a Fortune 500 computer gaming group, Richard Forthrast, the black sheep of an Iowa family who has amassed an illegal fortune, finds the line between fantasy and reality becoming blurred when a virtual war for dominance is triggered.

Omnitopia Dawn by Diane Duane – Dev Logan, the genius programmer responsible for a popular, massive multiplayer online game, Omnitopia, guards a secret about his invention – it is no longer simply a program, it has become sentient.

Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy – Grace McBride and the team at her software company are horrified when events in their murder mystery computer game are replicated in the real world by a ruthless killer, a situation that prompts them to analyze the game in order to anticipate his next move. Continue reading

Books for the Upcoming Eclipse

eclipseFor the first time since 1979, many Americans will soon be able to experience a total solar eclipse. Lasting no more than a few minutes on August 21, this spectacular phenomenon will be viewable roughly between 2:30 and 3 p.m. here in Virginia. Read more about the history and science behind solar eclipses by checking out one of these books from the library:

Eclipse: Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon by Frank Close – Looks at the science of eclipses, reveals their role in culture, and focuses on people who travel around the world chasing these events.

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron – Documents the efforts of three scientists to observe the rare total solar eclipse of 1878, citing how the ambitions of James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison helped America’s early pursuits as a scientific superpower.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Offers witty, digestible explanations of topics in cosmology, from the Big Bang and black holes to quantum mechanics and the search for life in the universe.

In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses by Anthony Aveni – In anticipation of solar eclipses visible in 2017 and 2024, an exploration of the scientific and cultural significance of this mesmerizing cosmic display. Continue reading

Discovering the Meaning Behind Sleep & Dreams

dreamworkingEvery person sleeps and experiences dreams, but no two dreams are exactly alike. While we all may know that sleep is important, do we understand why? What exactly does the brain do while the rest of the body is recharging? How can you maximize your sleeping habits to improve your waking life? Find out the answers to these questions and more by exploring the science of sleep through these books, available through the JMRL catalog:

Dreamworking: How to Listen to the Inner Guidance of Your Dreams by Dr. Christopher Sowton, ND – Provides a practical process for connecting your dreams to your life, helping you understand the profound requests that come while you sleep.

The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken & How to Fix it by W. Chris Winter, MD – Draws on cutting-edge sleep science and time-tested techniques in a guide to understanding what contributes to sleep problems and how to minimize medication dependency, sharing coverage of subjects ranging from insomnia and sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome and circadian sleep disorders.

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall – Examines the complex world of sleep and discusses whether or not women sleep differently than men and if killing someone while sleepwalking would count as murder.

The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest by Penelope A. Lewis – A highly-regarded neuroscientist explains the lesser-known role of sleep in processing the waking life and making sense of difficult emotions and experiences, drawing on the latest research to offer insight into the important functions of the sleeping brain. Continue reading